Sex, Drugs, and Jewish History!

Trip Start Jan 21, 2005
Trip End Aug 20, 2005

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The final destination of this amazing spring vacation was Amsterdam. Most people just think of pot and prostitution when it comes to Amsterdam, but the city has a rich tradition involving art, politics and international business.

Where Are We?
That is a horrible question to have to ask while traveling in another city, but the map I bought from the tourist office was of no help. The map gave street names and the location of currency exchanges, but mentioned nothing about where any tourist sites were or how to get to them. I was very upset and not willing to pay another five euro for a bad map, what would we do? Our hotel had many fliers and brochures, but prominently displayed the most helpful map on its counter. The free map had all of the major sites, ways to get to them, and bus routes. This map was amazing! This map was our savior! This map was the City of Amsterdam Complimentary GLBT Map... The Amsterdam Gay Map.

The Gay Map is the most helpful map I have used in Europe. It listed all of the sites with the most direct ways of reaching them. ATM locations, bus stops, consulates, and hospitals were also displayed on this incredibly useful map. Erin and I looked it over astonished by how easy one could navigate Amsterdam with this map. "Erin, where is the Anne Frank House?" I would ask. "Oh, it's on route five. Here, you can find it right next to the ad for the leather store."

The Gay Map was later replaced by an even more helpful complimentary Cannabis Finder Map which showed us the sites, trams, and the locations of the Hard Rock Café and KFC.

The Pleasure Palace
If it makes you happy, Amsterdam has it. Everyone has a secret uncontrollable pleasure. For some it is sex, others prefer drugs. Some people even find pleasure in fried foods and great shopping. Amsterdam can provide you with all of these. However, my secret uncontrollable pleasure is Jewish Culture and Holocaust Studies.... Hmmm, yes!

OK, that lead in really sucked and you are all welcome to unsubscribe, but it's obvious that each of my trips has had some Jewish component involved. Amsterdam contains the cream of the crop for Yids like me... the Anne Frank House. The house and museum were recently updated and turned into an amazing multimedia learning experience featuring recreations, diary excerpts, interviews, and videos. Amy, Erin and I spent an entire morning there walking through all of the rooms in the house trying to imagine years of hiding in the secret annex. We all realized that their attic is roomier and better insulated than our apartment in Florence.

Everyone's an Artist
To give everyone an idea of how much time was dedicated to art, I am going to describe Amsterdam's galleries as quickly as I breezed through them. We first went to the Van Gogh Museum where I wandered the three story museum and saw everything in about 20 minutes. The famous Van Gogh's are currently hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago (ironic) and I was left with all of the art that his brother Theo couldn't sell.

Then we went to the Rembrandt house and it was amazing (from the outside). I could just imagine what life must've been like for him (from the outside). Alright, I never went inside the house. I don't care for Rembrandt's work, I was exhausted, and an eight euro admission fee is obscene considering that I would just find a chair and text message family. Erin agreed and we sat outside and discussed how there is such a thing as "too much art."

I love touring breweries... The process of brewing beer is fascinating, the atmosphere is exciting, and the free samples are like a divine gift. The Heineken Experience is very similar to a trip to Epcot in Disney World. They have a Heineken bottle simulator where you are filled with sweet sweet Heineken and taken to a disco and enjoyed. There are also simulated barley fields, carriage rides, and a virtual world of Heineken commercials and good times. We spent an entire morning drinking beer and enjoying this adult playground. At about noon, I was drunk and ready for lunch.

Leidsplein and the Canals
Besides the Heineken, sex, drugs and Jewish history, Amsterdam is simply a beautiful city to walk around. Dutch homes, similar to Lincoln Park, are situated on many beautiful canals. We spent most of our time walking around and enjoying the architecture of the city. The canals are clean and reflect the buildings flawlessly making Amsterdam look like a northern Venice, but with less prostitutes.

But What About the Sex and Drugs?
Most of you have skimmed the entire travel pod searching for my honesty about the sinfully exciting side of Amsterdam. Did Brian pay for sex? No, and you should be ashamed of yourself for asking such a question. I went to the Red-light district twice and never took a picture. The district should have remained a legend in my mind; the reality of it was depressing and somewhat revolting. I walked the streets looking at windows filled with women in skimpy bikinis using re-freshening wipes. The women were ugly... I'm talking Shallow Hal ugly. Obese women in string bikinis stood in windows showing you what they would do for a Klondike bar. Also, little old men would walk in and out of the buildings talking with the women and negotiating a price.

I can't even describe the looks of judgment Amy and Erin gave these women. After seeing a woman at least seventy years old, we ran as far away as possible only to return curiously at night. I planned to witness a famous Dutch sex show that night, but my experience in the Red-light district turned me off to anything remotely sexual.

What About the Drugs? Wow, you seriously have a problem... pot head. I never took pictures inside of "coffee houses" in Amsterdam either. Pictures of coffee houses and the Red-light district work against the "what goes on in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam" oath I had to take at passport control. The coffee shops had menus of pot to select from. They varied in strength, origin, and way to consume it. Each coffee house had a unique scent that combined Starbucks with a frat house. People there were very hardcore and spent so much time smoking many different types of pot in many different ways.

What Goes On In Amsterdam Stays In Amsterdam
Amsterdam was one of my favorite cities because of the people's kindness and architectural beauty. I had a great time in that city and could have spent an entire week enjoying the culture and my surroundings. Some people may feel that they have missed on some amazing stories... and they have. Erin, Amy and I had an amazing experience, but every story would end with saying "well, you had to be there." If you would like to hear some stories, just buy me a few drinks when I get home and ask about spring break in the later end of the night.

I am catching up on my travel pods, everyone's mailboxes will be swamped with update notices. I hope everyone can catch up and will enjoy reading my experiences from after Spring break. Good luck on finals, mazel tov on graduation, hope work is treating you well and that your children are staying out of trouble. I love and miss you all.

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